Americans are drinking more. A lot more

High-risk drinking increases substantially among some groups in the US, study says

High-risk alcohol use, which the study's authors define as women consuming four or more drinks, or men consuming five or more drinks, on at least a weekly basis, had a relative increase of 29.9% in the total population, going from 9.7% in 2001 to 2002 to 12.6% in 2012 to 2013.

The findings come as President Trump said the ongoing opioid crisis is a national public health emergency.

The study found the most substantial increases among women, older adults, racial and ethnic minorities and individuals with lower levels of education and income.

Overall, the study found that drinking rates increased by 11 percent overall for Americans, with 75 percent of Americans admitting to having an alcoholic beverage in the past year in 2013.

The new findings are based on face-to-face interviews with nationally representative samples of adults in 2001-2002 and 2012-2013.

The researchers didn't look into the causes of this dramatic increase, but they suggested some reasons could include changing social norms and alcohol consumption as a coping device.

These biggest increases were seen among women, older adults, minority groups, and people with low education or income levels.


During the same time period, the incidence of alcohol use disorder rose from 8.5 percent to 12.7 percent. Alcohol use can also put older adults at a higher risk for a fall and for chronic diseases that can be caused by alcohol use. Women, for instance, are statistically more likely to take prescription drugs that could have an adverse effect with alcohol, and alcohol use can increase chances of breast cancer, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and other female-centric diseases. The disorder is determined by such symptoms as alcohol interfering with a person's home or work life, suffering withdrawal symptoms after abstaining from alcohol and being unable to cut down on or stop drinking, among others.

Women showed an 83.7 percent increase in alcohol use disorders in the time frame, and individuals who were 45 years to 64 years, and 65 years and older had 81.5 and 106.7 increases in the disorders respectively. Death rates from cirrhosis increased between 2009 and 2013, which hasn't happened since the early 1970s, she says.

Heavy drinking and alcohol use disorder contribute to diseases that are also on the rise, says study coauthor Bridget Grant, an epidemiologist at NIAAA in Bethesda, Md.

This study wasn't created to determine why people are drinking more.

The study was conducted by researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism, the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University, and relied on rigorously controlled self-reporting of drinking habits. In Canada, there is a minimum price for alcohol, and when that price has gone up, health problems and hospitalizations related to alcohol have gone down, he says. The stigma associated with heavy drinking and alcohol use disorder is also an issue, deterring people from getting help.

There "is and always has been" a lack of awareness regarding the health dangers of drinking excessively, Schuckit says. "Clearly, alcohol does not get the necessary attention given the problems it causes", says Rehm.

Psychotherapist Alexis Michael joined Morning Dose on Thursday and said it's because women are catching up with men. In the '90s, however, alcohol consumption increased - the percentage of people who drank at all increased by almost half, while high-risk and disordered drinking increased by about 20 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

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